Lawyer to Samar bishop: Explain online post on priest’s expulsion
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — A lawyer representing a priest from the Diocese of Borongan has threatened to sue Bishop Crispin Varquez after the Church official made public a decision from Pope Francis dismissing his client for alleged sexual abuse involving minors.
Lawyer Delyen Madula, in a demand letter issued on Sept. 18, asked Varquez to explain why Fr. Pio Aclon was expelled from the clergy. He also noted that the announcement of the Vatican’s decision deprived his client of due process.
Failure to comply with the demand would lead to the filing of complaints against Varquez, said Madula in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer.
“You are hereby demanded to produce the decision and the case docket as allegedly decided by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and your explanation within seven days from receipt thereof,” Madula’s letter to Varquez read.
The two-page letter also decried the decision of Varquez to make public the penalty against Aclon without a detailed reason and giving the priest a copy of the document first.
“The matter posted in different social media platforms, even performed as a legal, moral, and social duty is still considered libelous,” said Madula in the letter.
Violation of rights
“The social media platform is never a part of a procedural process involving the matter. You have violated our [client’s rights— ] not only his canonical rights but his civil rights.”
Varquez, in a letter posted on social media sites on Sept. 17, issued an “informationis causa” on the dismissal of Aclon from the priesthood.
The notice, signed by Fr. James Abella, the diocesan chancellor, stated that Aclon is no longer a cleric and cannot exercise priestly ministry in the Church.
The notice did not mention the cause of the expulsion of Aclon but a news article published on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) mentioned that the priest was accused of sexual abuse of minors.
Specifics and other information on how the offense was committed were not revealed.
Aclon, who was assigned to the diocesan minor seminary, declined to issue a direct statement on the allegations hurled at him.
“Let the party who announced it substantiate their claim against me,” he said in a message to the Inquirer on Friday.
The Inquirer tried to seek Varquez’s reaction to the demand letter but the bishop could not be reached as of Sunday night.
In a news article released by the CBCP also on Sept. 17, it was noted that Pope Francis had “repeatedly apologized” for the reported abuses and promised to help restore justice.
The bishops’ conference assured that there would be no cover-up in the sexual abuse case involving the clergy.
“The CBCP has also created an office that will help protect minors from alleged sexual abuses by the clergy,” it said.
“Each diocese had also developed its own system for handling reports of sexual abuse or misconduct,” the CBCP added.